Patrick Mullins: ''Faugheen the Machine' races like he'll live forever'
Tapes spring back, flag drops and we're off in Limerick's Matchbook Novice Chase. Faugheen leaps straight into the bridle, straining at the reins to go faster. We're smack down the inside, I reckon every little advantage will help.
Castlebrook is on our girths as we meet the first. Faugheen attacks it and that sets the tone. He's feeling brave so we'll roll with it.
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The giant Castlebrook out-jumps us over the first five but we don't miss a beat and I let him roll on to the front down the hill, I want this to be a war of attrition. We take a small breather between the two fences in front of the stand,
I notice it's Samcro not Castlebrook on my girths now, before striding on again to the rise up the back straight. Come and get us.
'Faugheen the Machine' doesn't miss a beat until the fourth last where he gets in tight and again a little tight at the last ditch. Is he tiring, I wonder? The handsome Samcro looms up on our outside, like a destroyer.
Time to roll the dice.
It's a long way out from the back of the third last and usually I'd ride to keep my powder dry but not today. Stamina and heart are the cards we're choosing to play. I'm squeezing as much as possible with my legs but holding onto his head as the speedometer begins to rise and the gears drop.
Neither are moving, it's a poker game for now. Then I see Jack Kennedy's ankles and wrists start to move aboard Samcro as we round the home bend. The cracks are starting to widen. I pour more coal on the fire and Faugheen responds, the old engine roaring.
We quicken away down to the second last where he launches from the wings.
I steady him into the last, and we reach the other side safely.
The second we touch down a wave of noise washes across us. We cross the line to the sight of hats and papers floating in the air, cheers and shouts ricocheting off the stands. Pure magic.
The reception afterwards was unlike anything I've experienced before, people 10 deep around the winners enclosure.
Faugheen races as though he'll live forever, treating mortality as an unreliable rumour from a distant land.
The fire hasn't gone out just yet. Not on this day. Not in this place.
This is Faugheen and he's still a 'Machine'.